PESHAWAR: Government has directed the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders—to close its medical activities in Bajaur Agency of Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA) of north-western Pakistan.
MSF’s Nasar Ghafoor through a press statement confirmed closure of its services in Bajaur Agency . He added that host government has refused to renew the no-objection certificate (NOC) already issued to MSF .
The closure will leave thousands of people in Bajaur Agency without vital healthcare, and comes just seven weeks after MSF was forced to close its project in Kurram Agency, also in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). With the closure of its project in Bajaur, MSF will now have no presence in the FATA—one of the areas of the country where the need for emergency, maternal and child healthcare is most acute.
“We are extremely disappointed by the authorities’ decision to refuse permission for MSF to continue providing urgently needed medical care in Bajaur Agency ,” said Azad Alessandro Alocco, MSF’s Country Representative in Pakistan. “Healthcare services are very limited in the area, and most of our patients cannot afford to pay even for basic medical care. As the only major hospital providing free, quality healthcare in the area, the closure of MSF’s activities will leave a major gap and have serious negative implications for the health of people living in Bajaur and the surrounding areas such as Mohmand Agency.”
MSF has been informed by the Pakistani authorities that the NOC required for carrying out medical activities in Bajaur will not be renewed, although no explanation has been given. Without a valid NOC, MSF is not permitted to continue providing medical services. MSF has informed its team and the local community in Bajaur Agency about the decision and will complete the closure process within two weeks.
In Bajaur, MSF has been supporting the Ministry of Health at the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital at Nawagai since 2013, providing medical care in the outpatient, emergency room, and mother and child health departments. As the authorities have not permitted MSF international staff members to access Bajaur Agency , the project is run by 120 Pakistani staff with support from international staff based in Timergara in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and in Islamabad.